17 April 2015

Society of Cincinnati

The Anti-Federalists by Jackson Main, 1961, Edited Excerpts

In 1780, in order to forestall a mass resignation of military officers, Congress promised half-pay pensions for life to those who would remain in service for the war’s duration. However, Congress lacked funds to honor this commitment. Antifederalists feared the army’s political power and opposed military pensions or any other measure which would differentiate the army from the general body of the population and contribute to the formation of a military caste.

Veteran army officers formed the Society of Cincinnati, a hereditary, secret organization. The Cincinnati was widely suspected of a design to create permanent nobility and exert political influence. It was known that in 1783 some of the officers of the army had conspired with members of Congress in an attempt to force the states to grant federal taxes.

Massachusetts men of property drew together, and many who had once doubted the value of a strong government, now hailed the prospect, and applauded the Society of Cincinnati which might help to obtain it. Antifederalists were later to accuse the Society of deliberately fomenting Shay’s Rebellion as part of a deep plot to overturn the government.

The Whiskey Rebellion by William Hodgeland, 2006, Edited Excerpts

The officers formed the Society of the Cincinnati, a hereditary organization with a chapter in each state. Every officer of the Continental Army was a member, and each officer’s eldest male descendant, in every future generation, would be a member too. The society unified the families of those who would become the country’s most influential men, creating a hereditary interstate lobby with roots in fear of coup. The society’s president was General Washington.

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